Fixing NAFTA’s institutional deficit

For more information about the US-Canada RCC, see here and here (page 3).

From: The E15 Initiative

by Simon Lester, Inu Manak

The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides a path for institutional innovation. This post argues that the institutions that were created by NAFTA have either not functioned well, or been insufficiently used, and that the opportunity to improve the institutions that exist and to create new avenues for continental cooperation should not be missed.


Regulatory Cooperation Council

Given the prominence of non-tariff barriers to trade, a Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) would be an important feature of any regulatory chapter of the NAFTA. Rather than starting from scratch, the three countries can simply institutionalise the current structure of the Canada-US RCC, which was launched in 2011. Ottawa has generally taken the lead on these efforts, a fact that has been noted as a particular challenge for the ongoing work of the RCC, with a heavier burden falling on Canada, though interest from the White House and support from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) are essential to its functioning. In addition, as there has been less progress on the US-Mexico High Level Regulatory Cooperation Council, it could be absorbed into a trilateral RCC, where each party is given the flexibility to decide which activities it wants to participate in.

The RCC could then have rotating leadership assignments between the three countries, on an annual basis, as they draft new work plans, but also potentially maintain a presence in a NAFTA Secretariat so that there could be regular support for the three governments in helping agencies and stakeholders connect to the right people across the border.

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